The Keto Diet: What Is It and Is It Right For You?

keto diet what is it
The Ketogenic Diet has been around for almost a century. In fact, it was a therapy for epilepsy as early as the 1920’s (1). As well, it has been especially popular in bodybuilding. The “Iron Guru”, Vince Gironda, used to advocate a high fat, low carb, high protein diet similar to the keto diet as far back as the 1960’s. Fast-forward to the mid-90’s and you have another variation on the Keto Diet. This one is the Anabolic Diet by Dr. Mario Di Pasquale (2). One of the things that come to mind when I recall this diet is the WBF. This was the short-lived bodybuilding federation run by Vince McMahon. This diet was the good Doctor’s attempt to create anabolic results by diet manipulation. This was because of the steroid ban McMahon implemented.
What Is The Ketogenic Diet?
In the first place, it is a very low carb (10% or less of total calories), moderate to high protein, high fat diet. Also, it forces the body to utilize fats for energy since glucose stores will become depleted soon after starting this diet.
Ah, but it’s not as simple as that! There are 3 popularly-accepted variations on this diet:
Standard Keto Dieting (SKD)
This is the classic version and the easiest to follow. There’s no carbohydrate re-feeding with this one as there are with the other two versions. This is a diet that is moderate-high protein, high fat, low carbohydrate. Who is this version suited for? Individuals that lead reasonably sedentary lifestyles and find workout performance is not overly affected from dramatically reduced carbohydrate intake. Additionally, this is the best option for people who don’t train that hard or those that are highly resistant to insulin.

Targeted Keto Dieting (TKD) 

This variation allows predetermined periods of carbohydrate intake in the hours around the workout. This approach provides adequate glucose for workout energy. The goal here is to improve training performance without affecting ketosis for anything more than the length of your workout. This version best suited for the individual that works out intensely several times a week. This individual feels that training performance is suffering from low-carb dieting. Additionally, this is good for those that do not do well with large carbohydrate re-feeds.
Cyclical Keto Dieting (CKD) 
This version utilizes planned carbohydrate re-feeds. This replenishes muscle glycogen stores after being depleted from dieting. You follow the diet for 6 days with 1 day devoted to refeeding. This approach is based on training intensity and goals. Who is this version suited for? This is the most popular variation of keto dieting among serious performance-minded athletes and individuals. Do you train hard and feel your training performance is not where you want it to be? You’ve used both the SKD and TKD versions? Then the CKD version is the next step.


Differences Between Keto & Other Low Carb Diets

How is a keto diet different from all the other low-carb diets out there? Primarily, some people believe a keto diet is most effective when the body enters a state known as “ketosis”. This is when the body begins producing ketones for energy and only happens after severe carb restriction. As a matter of fact, this is where the term “ketogenic” comes from. The logical question at this point is, what is ketosis?
Medical News Today defines ketosis as “a metabolic process that occurs when the body does not have enough glucose for energy. Stored fats are broken down for energy, resulting in a build-up of acids called ketones within the body”. Ketones are water-soluble organic compound that is synthesized in the liver from fatty acids when carbohydrate intake is restricted.

The Keto Diet & Fat Loss

Is the Keto Diet an effective way to lose fat (3)? The general opinion is yes – the Keto Diet is even more effective than other low-carb/low-fat diets (4,5). Anyone can be use this diet. However it goes without saying that you should talk to your doctor before beginning such a diet, especially if you are taking medications. The diet works by causing changes in body chemistry that can have a major effect on any medications you may be taking, especially during the initial couple of weeks.
The keto diet is completely safe for healthy people. However, there are initial side effects as your body adjusts to the drastic changes in carbohydrate intake. These short-term side effects include: poor workout performance, low energy, a “cloudy” mental state, hunger, potential sleep problems, nausea and digestive discomfort. The key here is that these effects are short term and will pass after the few weeks. One way to reduce some of these effects is to first try a typical lower carb diet for a week, then go into a Keto diet.
If you’d like to give the Keto Diet a try, you’ll want to check out Part 2 of this article, we’ll take a detailed look at meal ideas and set up sample diets, including options for bodybuilders, who want more protein, and vegetarians.

by Jim Brewster, CPT, CSN.


  1. Kossoff, E. H., & Freeman, J. M. (2004). The Ketogenic Diet. Epilepsy and the Ketogenic Diet, 53-61. doi:10.1007/978-1-59259-808-3_3
  2. Di Pasquale, M. G. (1995). The Anabolic Diet. Optimum Training Systems.
  3. Fukao, T., Lopaschuk, G. D., & Mitchell, G. A. (2004). Pathways and control of ketone body metabolism: on the fringe of lipid biochemistry. Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids, 70(3), 243-251. doi:10.1016/j.plefa.2003.11.001
  4. Westman, E. C., Yancy, W. S., Mavropoulos, J. C., Marquart, M., & Mcduffie, J. R. (2008). The effect of a low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet versus a low-glycemic index diet on glycemic control in type 2 diabetes mellitus. Nutrition & Metabolism, 5(1), 36. doi:10.1186/1743-7075-5-36
  5. Elsheikh, M. (2003). Randomised trial comparing a Low Carbohydrate Diet and a Low Glycaemic Index Diet on body weight, hyperandrogenism and cardiovascular risk factors in women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). 1617-1623. doi:10.1186/isrctn55425758

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